Are you planning on traveling this holiday season? For many of us, this feels like the first, best opportunity to see loved ones after almost two years of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. Here are some tips for flying or taking car rides while pregnant and with your newborn.
No matter where you are traveling, consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19 if you are not already. USA Today recently reported that only 18% of pregnant people in the United States are vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and World Health Organization all recommend the COVID vaccine even during pregnancy. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.
Flying During Pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that during healthy pregnancies, “occasional air travel is almost always safe.” Most domestic airlines allow pregnant people to fly until about 36 weeks of pregnancy, but international airlines may have different cut-offs. You should always consult with your healthcare provider and the airline before booking any travel.
If you do choose to fly while pregnant this holiday season, you can do a number of things to make the flight more comfortable. First, book and aisle seat if possible. This way, you can get up and walk around more easily. Sitting for more than four hours increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in your leg and can cause pulmonary embolism (when the blood clot gets stuck in your lung). Even when you are sitting, you can move your feet, toes, and legs to keep up circulation.
You should also wear the seatbelt low across your hips, below the belly and avoid carbonated drinks. All domestic flights currently require masks during travel, and you should consider wearing an N95 or surgical mask, which offer the most protection against airborne pathogens like coronavirus. To stay hydrated, drink water.
Taking Long Car Rides During Pregnancy
Like flying, taking long car rides during pregnancy might feel uncomfortable. Wear loose-fitting clothing and layers that can be taken off or put on. You should also be drinking water and eating regular meals. Usually when we drive we want to get there as soon as possible, but remember to stop to use the bathroom and stretch your legs. Sitting in the car for extended amounts of time increases the risk of DVT and can just be uncomfortable.
Even though a few hours-long car ride might not seem as noteworthy as flying somewhere, remember to speak to your care providers about where and how you are traveling. They may want to offer additional advice to keep you and baby safe.
Flying with Newborn Baby
You should speak with your baby’s care provider before deciding to go on a flight. As uncomfortable as flying can be for us, it can be especially bad for newborns. Because their immune systems are still developing and planes are by nature crowded spaces, babies might be more susceptible to picking up a virus during a flight.
The cabin pressure changes may also hurt baby’s ears. If you are traveling, let baby suck on something during takeoff and landing. And while we don’t always notice how loud a plane is, the engines and air circulation can be very loud for a baby’s new ears. Consider noise-cancelling headphones to protect their hearing.
The level of oxygen inside an aircraft is also lower, and while this might be fine for some babies, talk to your doctor about any of baby’s heart or lung issues.
And, although baby is allowed to be in your lap during the flight, best practice would be to purchase a seat for baby and to properly install their infant car seat (double checking for FAA approval). This gives you the mobility to get up and move around as well as a familiar place for baby to sleep. It also is by far, the safest way for baby to fly.
Finally, make sure that you have everything your baby might need during the flight in an easily-accessible carry-on bag.
Car Rides With a Newborn
First, make sure that your car seat is properly installed [link to blog]. Like flying, you should also have everything baby needs in an easily-accessible bag. You or your partner may want to sit in the back seat with baby.
Before you leave, consider when and where you’ll be making stops along the way. Think about when your baby usually eats and where the best place to stop might be. Because of COVID, you may want to stop at a rest stop or picnic area rather than a restaurant.